Larry Lutz, long known as "Larry the Legend," felt it was time to retire. So after 36 years of owning and operating Lilburn Tire on Lawrenceville Highway, he sold his business to longtime employee Brett Moulder. Two knee replacements curtailed most of the outdoor adventures that earned him his nickname, so he's no longer the outdoorsman he used to be. But the hundreds of pictures and paraphernalia that bedeck the building and chronicle his life are still there. And so is Lutz.
Lutz didn't set out to be a legend in the tire business. He earned a degree in industrial management from Georgia Tech, but after some restaurant and sales jobs that didn't seem to suit him, he was looking for another way to earn a living.
One day, he opened a flier from a tire service that came in the mail and saw the name of what he believed to be a high school classmate. Out of curiousity, Lutz went to see if it was the same guy.
Not only was it his classmate, but he just happened to be short-handed and asked Lutz if her could help out for two weeks.
Those two weeks led to Lutz eventually buying the business.
"It was the first job I ever had that didn't require a coat and tie," Lutz said, but it didn't take him long to settle in to a more casual look.
It also didn't take long to start decorating his workspace. One wall is filled with pictures of him conquering the wilderness, living in tents and lean-toes he built himself from fallen trees. Another wall holds pictures of his scuba diving feats.
Behind the counter Lutz displayed World War II pictures from his family and those of employees Moulder and Mike Rust, whose fathers had all fought in that war. From the early aughts, rows of plaques depict his support for the Lilburn T-Birds, a girls' softball team.
Lutz also posted some aerial pictures of Lawrenceville Highway when it was only two lane and hardly developed. And even with things he couldn't get pictures of, he has stories that locals told him about landmarks like the old Baptismal font behind his building which was used over a century ago.
Other accents include a few animal skulls he picked up from his walks through the wilderness and a windowsill full of cacti, some of which are over 20 years old.
"These things are conversation starters, especially the pictures from the war," Lutz said. "Customers bring their kids in here to see the pictures and tell them about how their parents brought them here when they were kids."
Yes, Lutz tried to retire, but twice a week he comes back by popular demand. It seems there are some people who refuse to have anyone but The Legend balance their tires. So he can't just go away and retire. He has to stick around and "re-tire."
Susan Larson is a writer from Lilburn. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.